Hotteok: What Is It, Taste, and How To Eat?

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Food is a major part of different cultures. One culture that’s spreading in popularity around the globe is Korean culture. 

In Korea, there’s a dish called hotteok that you can buy on the streets. But what exactly is hotteok, and how do you eat it?

Hotteok is a Korean and Chinese dish that’s primarily sold as street food. It’s sometimes spelled hoeddeok instead, and it’s a type of filled pancake. 

It’s best for winter because it’s a comfort food made up of sweet ingredients. Some of these ingredients are: dough, honey, milk, sugar, and cinnamon.

The rest of this article will cover what hotteok is in more detail, how to eat it, and a brief conclusion.

What Hotteok Is

To foreigners, hotteok (호떡) looks like a weird word with a weird meaning. However, it’s a common street food in South Korea that’s tasty, warm, inexpensive, and comforting. 

They’re sweet pancakes with sugar syrup inside, and they’re often eaten as snacks in the street.

The history of hotteok is quite fascinating since it originated from both China and Korea. It’s a type of Korean Chinese cuisine. 

Back in the 19th century, hotteok was brought into Korea, making it both a Korean and Chinese food. China has actually had a lot of impact on Korea.

In the Korean language, there’s Sino-Korean, which are Korean words that have a Chinese origin. For example, there’s both native numbers and sino numbers in Korean. In native, there’s hana (하나, 1), and in sino, there’s il (일, 1).

All this means that China has an impact on both the language and the food. It’s no surprise that there’s plenty of Korean Chinese cuisine. 

Where You Can Buy Hotteok

If you’re in South Korea, the best place to find hotteok is on the streets. It’s a great snack you can have while you’re walking down the street. 

Along with that, street food is known for being quick and cheap, so as soon as you order, it’s ready for you to eat.

If you’re not in South Korea, buying it becomes a bit trickier. Unlike other Korean foods like kimchi (김치), hotteok isn’t as popular outside of South Korea. 

That means it’s not sold at as many places. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get it.

You can find products like kimchi or Korean BBQ at your local grocery store, but it’s less likely to find hotteok. 

Regardless, go to the frozen meals section to see if you can find packaged hotteok. Ask a cashier or other worker if they carry the product if you can’t find anything.

If you can’t find anything at your local grocery store, try going to an Asian, specifically Korean, restaurant. 

With a rise in demand for Korean products, a lot of Korean restaurants sell packaged Korean foods. So you can either dine-in and eat, or you can buy packaged goods, or both.

There’s two more options left if none of those work. You can order online and have them shipped to you, or you can make hotteok from scratch. 

Hotteok is hard to make from scratch, and it’s also a lengthy process, but it’ll taste the best.

How To Eat Hotteok

Hotteok tastes like a bready pancake with cinnamon sugar. It has the best of both worlds in the sense that it resembles soft bread, but has crisp edges from being made in a pancake skillet. 

It’s not a very versatile food like other Korean dishes, but there’s a few ways to eat it.

First, you have to choose how you’re going to prepare it. If you make it from scratch, you can cook it using pans on a stove. 

Making it from scratch will take anywhere from an hour to two hours. Or, you can buy premade hotteok and heat it up using a couple different methods.

You can put it in the toaster to get a nice crisp texture, or you can microwave it for fast but softer results. 

However, putting hotteok in the toaster is recommended if you’re reheating it since it brings out the best flavors.

Most of the time, you’ll want hotteok as a snack, but you can also put it on display as a dessert. It’s the perfect snack and treat. If you put it out as a dessert, be prepared to know how to store it to keep it preserved for as long as possible.

Toasting Your Hotteok

The best part about pancakes is how crisp the edges are and how soft the middle is. Putting your hotteok in the toaster will allow for crispier edges and more enjoyment. It’ll take longer (5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you want it), but it’s worth it.

Microwaving Your Hotteok

If you’re in a hurry for a snack, then microwaving your hotteok is a good idea. Throw it in for 30-40 seconds on a plate. After it’s done, it’s ready to eat, but be warned that it’ll come out of the microwave hot. Give it 10-30 seconds to cool off to prevent burns.

Eating Hotteok As A Snack

In Korea, the locals buy hotteok from street vendors to have it as a snack. You can do the same. The reason why they’re seen as snacks is because they’re small. They aren’t the average pancake size you’d see in America. They’re only a bit bigger than the palm of your hand.

Eating Hotteok As A Dessert

Hotteok for dessert is wonderful. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also small enough that they won’t be a huge dessert. They’re perfect for portion control while also providing a tasty treat anyone can enjoy. Simply put them on a small plate and enjoy!

How To Store Hotteok

It’s recommended to consume hotteok on the same day you make or buy them. This is because putting them in the fridge or freezer will make them lose their taste. With that being said, you can store them in your fridge or freezer using a bag like Ziploc. 

Even after storing them, try to eat them within a week for the best flavor. After a week, they’ll lose their crispness and taste. In the fridge they’ll only last 3-4 days, and in the freezer, they can last a couple weeks. It’s still recommended to eat them as fast as possible.

Conclusion

Hotteok is a Korean and Chinese filled pancake that’s known for being sweet. It’s best for the winter season because it’s warm comfort food. 

It’s packed full of sweet ingredients such as sugar, honey, dough, milk, and cinnamon. It’s a very popular Korean street food.

The dish originated in Korea and China, where it came into Korea from China in the 19th century. 

That makes it a Korean Chinese cuisine meal, and since China has had a lot of impact on Korea (like their language), this isn’t a surprise.

Hotteok is not as versatile as other Korean foods, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few ways you can eat it. 

You can have it as a snack or as dessert, and you can heat it up using a pan, toaster, or microwave. Put your hotteok in the fridge or freezer to preserve it.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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